Seeing my mother, who doesn't know her grandchildren's names or ages or what day of the week it is, can be very hard. This is a woman who watched Wall Street Week in Review every Friday, traveled to China, read every serious political biography. I follow my sister's guidance on coping with the visits, which is to surround them with positive experiences: a garden tour, a museum, a walk by the river.
This time I suggested stopping by a bookstore I'd wanted to find for over a year: One More Page Books, in Falls Church. I met one of the managers at Book Expo America, when I signed paperbacks of my second novel, The Chalice, at the Mystery Writers of America booth, and she seemed nice.
"This is always a risk," I warned my sister on the way to One More Page in her car. Some independent bookstores don't care for historical mysteries and fail to order them. Once I took my tender-hearted young son along when checking out a literary bookstore in Manhattan. When the clerk snootily said "Oh, no," to my question whether they'd ordered my first novel from Simon & Schuster, he cried on the sidewalk later. "They don't like you," he said. I hastily pointed out that it's nothing personal. But I hadn't taken a family member along on one of my expeditions to brick-and-mortar land since that tear-stained day.
It was a cool, cloudy Saturday morning when we slipped inside One More Page. Feeling nervous, I made my way to the fiction shelf, zeroed in on "B," and spotted The Chalice. I sighed with relief. My work was there. I decided to "out" myself and say hello to the manager, not the same person I met at BEA. She couldn't have been friendlier, and we had a lively conversation about historical novels on her sales table, from books by Lyndsay Faye and Leslie Parry to Sophie Perinot and Stephanie Dray. This is a store that happily carries historical fiction. Whew! I hope that when The Tapestry paperback comes out, they will stock it too.
My sister snapped a picture, and we were back in the car, on our way to see our mother. It was still a tough visit. Afterward, we headed for the National Gallery in Washington DC, and I tried to soothe my troubled soul by looking at Rembrandt and Holbein.
But I'm grateful to One More Page, for starting the day with a feeling of warmth and welcome. It's not only for professional reasons that I support the independent bookstores, a vital force in the health of the publishing industry. It's also because personally, it feels nice to be part of their world.